Where are you going this year? We’re still in January and the sun is shining longer but not quite long enough; the temps are getting warmer but not quite warm enough; spring break is coming but not quite soon enough. So where are you going that you can let your mind sorta settle on to keep moving forward when it feels like January is being too January and April and May are too far away?
Where does your mind flee when gray and cold and hard are a little too much to take?
I have used the question over the years in so many different settings: if money were no object, where in the world would you go? And sometimes I add this caveat: it can’t be anywhere you’ve previously travelled or stayed. Aaahhh, maybe that makes it a bit more difficult. Sometimes we simply want to go back to those places where we’ve been that we know are fun and easy and relaxing and take the worry out of the unknown. There is security there. We can eat at the places we already know are good, we can shop at the places we already know we can almost afford, we can stay in the places we already know feel safe and clean and comfortable. It doesn’t require the energy, the planning, maybe even the willingness accept the possibility of disappointment that going someplace new often requires.
But then there’s that caveat I put on the question – where would you go if money were no object AND it can’t be anywhere you’ve previously been. Might you take up that challenge, you know, at least in your imagination in these never-ending January into February days when the holidays are over but spring break is too far away to see? Outer-Slobovia? The greater or lesser Antilles? Bangladesh? Botswana? Bali? I kinda got caught up in the alliterative qualities of those last three – how easily entertained I am by words and language. Anyway, when was the last time you looked at a globe; a map of the world beyond our known borders; a snapshot of the Middle-East, Southeast Asia, Western Europe, the Amazon making its way through Brazil? Is it too impossible? Is imagining those places, let alone ever considering visiting them simply too overwhelming somehow?
Believe it or not, I’m a bit of a homebody. Certainly I’ve been on mission trips that have taken me numerous places outside our borders, but to be honest? It was always the mission that got me to actually go, not the thought of getting to see new places beyond the reality of where I’d already been. Once I reached those places, I was always surprisingly fascinated by what I got to see, as if it never occurred to me that that would be part of the trip. The “bush” in Liberia; the museums depicting the strength of the Russian army in World War II in Vladimir; the ghettos of Limon, Costa Rica; the Cathedral and statues in Puebla, Mexico; the traffic without any seeming order in Monrovia and the continuous never-ending honking of horns and the soccer field where all were persons with the disability of having lost limbs during their civil war. I went to all those places with a task in mind – with work to be accomplished, relationships to be built, a budget to be kept, a timeline to be met, and getting home safely with the same number of people with which we left. Those are the only reasons I was willing to leave my comfort zone of home. And yet, the pictures I now have more in my memory than in any recorded fashion, (I’m not particularly good at selfies or otheries), are priceless to me. Not so much because I was there, but more because somehow God helps me/us to see beyond our comfort zones when we really don’t necessarily have the intentionality of doing so. It keeps me humble beyond what you might imagine because I have absolutely no doubt that if it had been left up to me, I would never have taken the risk. God has figured out that what pushes my buttons are the possibilities of building relationship across differences, and somehow trying to partner with other people to make the world a better place. I know, la, la, right? What weird cloud must I be living in to think that small groups of people can take short-term mission trips and change the world? Maybe a common denominator is that every time I’ve left the comfort-zone, I’ve been changed, and probably in ways even I haven’t yet completely understood. Maybe that’s how it happens. Maybe the world changes one person at a time as God somehow figures out what pushes our buttons to get us a little or a lot outside our comfort zones and once there, our eyes and ears and hearts and souls are changed in ways we could not have predicted.
Maybe all of the above is true not only for travel, maybe it’s true for challenges in our vocational lives, our family lives, our political lives, and our spiritual lives. Perhaps in these geez-it’s-only-the-third-week-of-January days we might contemplate what adventures await our willingness to risk responding to new callings in our work; to figure out new ways of surprising our families with affirmations and confidence; to open our minds and thoughts to ideas outside our already-decided opinions (even though we’re pretty clear we’re right *snort*); to invite God’s presence intentionally as we experience the world around us fraught with holy moments and grace-filled minutes.
Life is too short and too valuable not to stay engaged and intrigued through the seasons of the year and the seasons of our own development. The world continues to change in partnership with God as we risk putting ourselves into new places, new ways of thinking, and maybe even new ways of being. SOMETHING in the latter part of our winters needs to plant in us life and hope – take a risk – where might you go this year that you’ve never previously been? Perhaps God only knows, it will be worth the trip!